In Memory of Ed Rubenstein

Edward Rubenstein2021    A long-time member, leader, and advocate for MASCC, Ed Rubenstein sadly passed away recently at the age of 63. As well as being instrumental in the development of MASCC’s mucositis and febrile neutropenia guidelines, Ed was also a warm and charismatic person who will be greatly missed by many. Many of our long-time members have shared their remembrances of Ed, his life and his work.

From Linda Elting:  When I remember Ed, my initial thought is that Ed was first and last, a gentleman… not because he behaved well, but because he respected the people around him. This respect was perfectly illustrated in his mentoring relationships with more junior colleagues. He opened doors for many of us, stepped back to let us shine, but always had our backs. He pulled no punches, criticized constructively and never hesitated to share credit. >> more

As a scholar, Ed was more than smart and creative; he was brave. He took carefully calculated risks and pushed boundaries to move the science of patient care forward, never settling for the status quo, always looking for better outcomes and better quality of life for his patients. I recall once reacting to one of his research ideas by telling him it would die in IRB limbo; I then called him a ‘cowboy researcher’. His response was the biggest smile and the happiest laugh I had ever seen. He was always at his best and he loved living right on the edge of everything.

Ed had a gift for seeing what was possible and a vision for the future, but he always lived in the here and now. He loved great wine, fine leather boots, a great meal, a good laugh, and out-of-the-box ideas. Most of all, he loved sharing these with good friends. They were great times, those long conversations over great meals and bottomless bottles of wine. I miss him more than I can say.


From Richard Gralla:  With all of Ed's energy, creativity, dedication and warmth it is so hard to believe that Ed has died, and at only 63. He always had a smile, a story, and a unique idea. Ed was such a colleague and such a friend. He had several careers in one; he was always the consummate physician in every one of his roles. Yes, he greatly contributed to antiemetic research and care, but he also had marked impact on treatment and guidelines for febrile neutropenia and mucositis. >> more

Let us not forget his amazing work at MD Anderson where he contributed greatly to these concepts, but especially to modernizing their outpatient emergency and chemotherapy administration services. Ed's ideas were crucial in expanding and firmly establishing the Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer, which would not have succeeded without his drive and quiet guidance. And Ed had such a flair! This was not limited just to the golf course or to the elegant dining table. It was always a risk to hand Ed the wine list at a lovely restaurant. I am glad that he was a firm believer in the adage that ‘life is too short to drink bad wine!’ Even though we often split the cost of a bottle or two, I may still be paying for some of those treats. Let us all drink a toast to Ed, and reflect on his wonderful spirit.


From Jørn Herrstedt:  Ed was good company. After a short or longer conversation with Ed, you always went on intellectually stimulated, entertained and in a good mood. He became an MD in 1981 and spent 18 years at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston until he left MD Anderson in 2004 to become Senior Vice President at MGI Pharma. >> more

His approach to clinical oncology was patient-centered from the beginning. As a professor at MD Anderson he soon became Chief of Medical Supportive Care. He was deeply involved in the early success of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care (MASCC) as a Board member, Chair of the Membership Committee and Chair of the Awards Committee. Perhaps his greatest MASCC-related achievement was as chairman of the MASCC Symposium in 1998. His ambitious and comprehensive scientific program started at 6 a.m. - a model that was not routinely copied by subsequent meetings. The 1998 MASCC Symposium also verified the alliance between ISOO and MASCC, a process in which Ed was instrumental. He was awarded The Berlin MASCC Award in 2003 and he was a strong candidate for the MASCC Presidency had he not joined a position in the pharmaceutical industry.

Besides mucositis and antiemetics, his scientific career included numerous publications in infections and febrile neutropenia focusing on oral and outpatient antibiotic treatment of low-risk patients. The textbook of Febrile Neutropenia (FN) edited by Ed and Kenneth Rolston is still my “Bible” in FN, including contributions from so many experts in this research field. In his dedication, he wrote: “Let’s continue to meet across the ocean in the years ahead.”

And so we did. In addition to the MASCC Symposia and other international congresses we met in private at his place (in the beginning at “The White House” in Houston) or at my place (a modest house in Denmark). I can brag about being a member of Ed’s advisory board on how to start a wine cellar. In the very beginning, he had a collection of 100 bottles, expanding to 6000 bottles in the subsequent years. Each time we met, we shared a good bottle of Californian or Burgundy wine.

We will miss him as a good and inspiring colleague, but primarily as the person he was.


From Paul Hesketh:  When Ed Rubenstein was in a room, it was impossible to ignore his presence. Even if you had not previously met him, he would most likely make his way to you to introduce himself, and quickly find the means to initiate an invariably interesting and often memorable conversation. I first got to know Ed well in 1998 as a member of the Program committee for the MASCC Annual Meeting being held that year in San Antonio. Ed was the Program Chair for that meeting. >> more

I was immediately impressed by his high energy, enthusiasm and dedication to excellence. It turned out to be a fabulous meeting. Much of the subsequent success of MASCC as an organization can be directly linked to the impact of the earliest MASCC Annual meetings held during the 1990’s which drew many talented people together, establishing critical relationships and a sense of common purpose. Ed had an amazingly creative and inventive mind always coming up with innovative ideas about a new project or study concept.

Ed was not a shrinking violet. He was a fierce advocate for his beliefs and was passionate about improving the patient experience to minimize the adverse effects of cancer treatment. If you planned on debating Ed on a particular topic you had better be well prepared.

Ed was not an all work and no play guy. He knew how to dress and how to have fun. His sense of humor, high energy level and enthusiasm were infectious and he was fun to be with whether in a professional setting or out on a night on the town or on a golf course.

Ed will be dearly missed. Although his time with us was much too short, his impact on improving the care of cancer patients will be his lasting legacy.


From Dorothy Keefe:  Ed Rubenstein was one of a kind; a true gentleman scholar who was kind, funny, fiercely intelligent and who always put the patient first. He was the one who introduced me to MASCC back in 1999. He came to visit my poster at ASCO (my first ever visit to the USA) and recruited me for MASCC and more specifically for the inaugural Mucositis Guidelines project as the Gastrointestinal lead. Looking back, this obviously had a huge effect on my career – but he didn’t stop there; he gave me authorship responsibilities, presentation responsibilities, got me noticed by the Board of MASCC, nominated me to replace him as Study Group Chair, and I am sure was instrumental in nominating me for the Board. >> more

All along the way there were impassioned conversations about cancer, supportive care, mucositis, how to make the toxicity of cancer treatment less awful, and of course fine food and fine wine. His hospitality was boundless like his energy; he had a wonderful sense of humour, and he became a real friend. When he left academic medicine to pursue his career in the industry he became my “Dark Side Advisor” helping me with important career decisions over many years.

Every year at MASCC we would meet for dinner, wherever in the world that was, and put the world to rights. He helped more people than he probably ever knew. He was a delight to know and he will be sorely missed.


From Doug Peterson:  Among so many achievements of Ed’s accomplished career, perhaps his leadership of the inaugural MASCC/ISOO Mucositis Guideline program is among the most impactful and far-reaching. His vision and leadership in the formative years of the program provided foundational footing that has led to multiple editions of the guidelines over the past 20+ years. >> more

The timing was perfect. Based on careful preparations throughout the prior year, a strategic alliance between MASCC and ISOO was formally approved at the 1998 MASCC annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Ed was serving as symposium chair for that meeting. Discussions during the prior year had included how best to integrate the interprofessional expertise across MASCC and ISOO such that the first-ever mucositis guideline could be systematically developed. The opportunity represented by the newly created MASCC/ISOO alliance was extraordinary, and represented an ideal setting for Ed and his colleagues to move forward with mucositis guideline development. This first guideline was published in 2004, and represented the culmination of a rigorous, time-intensive process that included a multi-day working meeting of the reviewers to debate the literature and formalize the guidelines. Ed’s leadership, charisma, and yes even some of his humor were inspirational throughout this process. To this day the mucositis guideline portfolio, pioneered by Ed and his team, remains a cornerstone of the MASCC/ISOO enterprise.


From Cindy Rittenberg:  Ed was brilliant, creative, a mover and shaker, a caregiver in the true sense, a motivator, a raconteur, an expert in many fields, a mentor - a true renaissance man. I remember him as innovative and thorough with his many ideas for projects for which he always followed through. He also was a lot of fun. Ed certainly is responsible for helping put MASCC and then ISOO on the map as legitimate, solid, respected, research-based organizations.


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